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Fact or Fiction: Defensive POY frontrunner


** writers debate who is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year:


1. Odell Beckham Jr. will have more yards than Antonio Brown on Sunday.

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JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - This would be an easier question if the stat in question was receptions. Brown gets so many targets from Ben Roethlisberger, he will undoubtedly have more catches. Yards will be closer, but I'm going to go with Brown, too, simply because he'll probably get more targets than Beckham. The Steelers offense is used to playing in the conditions at Heinz Field, while the Giants might have some issues adjusting.

The Giants also have more reliable targets outside of Beckham, as compared to the Steelers. If the Steelers decide to focus on taking away Beckham, the Giants will happily go to a different receiver. The Steelers, meanwhile, are more likely to force things to Brown.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - 'Tis the season of Beckham. The two-time Pro Bowl receiver has dominated the month of December in his two NFL seasons, averaging 142.4 yards per game. The following are his yardage totals in seven career games in December: 130, 143, 148, 185, 149, 166 and 76. While we're on the subject, he's also averaging 8.9 receptions and 1.6 touchdowns. Brown, on the other hand, is averaging 79.1 yards, 5.8 catches and 0.5 touchdowns.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The Steelers have done a pretty good job against opposing number one wide receivers this season. Just three have surpassed the century mark (the Redskins' DeSean Jackson, the Jets' Brandon Marshall, the Cowboys' Dez Bryant) and six were held to less than 80 receiving yards. Antonio Brown has led the Steelers in receiving yards in four of their last five games with at least 85 yards in four of those five contests.

Eli Manning has spread the wealth this season and doesn't necessarily look to force feed one particular receiver. In games where the opposition has turned its attention to Beckham, Manning has looked to other options and that philosophy hasn't changed throughout the course of the season. Beckham has less than 100 receiving yards in each of the last five games and less than 50 yards in three of them. Brown has been a bit more consistent in yards per game and also has more targets on the season (121 to 109).

2. Landon Collins is the frontrunner for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I think he should be in serious consideration, but the stat most people look at first for Defensive Player of the Year is sacks. Von Miller has 12.5 and is part of one of the best defenses in football in Denver. They are still in the running to be a playoff team as well. For Collins to garner more support than Miller, he will have to have a couple more interceptions in the final five games of the season. The Giants will also have to finish the season strong defensively. A lot of times the Defensive Player of the Year award is reflective of team performance. Collins is in my top tier of candidates right now, but I wouldn't classify him as the favorite.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - It's one thing when Giants fans – or Giants writers – say it, but it's another when an opposing quarterback of Ben Roethlisberger's stature does, too. Leading up to their Week 13 meeting, the Steelers' two-time Super Bowl champion said, "I think that Landon is maybe the defensive player of the year." Collins has 87 tackles, five interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), three sacks and 10 passes defensed on the year. And the accolades are already building. He was just named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month to go along with his two weekly awards. But the Giants must keep winning to keep him in the conversation.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Landon Collins leads all NFL defensive backs in tackles (87), is tied for the lead in sacks (3) and is tied for second in interceptions (5). Given his consistency in all three categories, his numerous game changing plays and drastic improvement from his rookie year to his second year, it's hard not to put him in the driver's seat.

With that being said, I think there are a few other players that deserve consideration: Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (9 sacks – 2nd among DEs, INT, TD, 3 FF, 2 FR), Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (7.5 sacks, forced safety, FF, FR, TD), Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (7 sacks, 3 FF, FR, TD) and Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who leads the NFL with 12.5 sacks. All four of those players are one of several reasons why their respective teams are in the playoff hunt.

A look at the expected starters for the Giants' Week 13 opponent

3. The Giants will hold the Steelers to fewer than 100 yards rushing.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - Le'Veon Bell has 120 and 146 yards rushing in his last two games, but that came against two of the worst rush defenses in football in the Browns and Colts. The Giants are a very different animal with one of the best run-stuffing front sevens in the league. I expect Bell to have more of an impact as a receiver in this game than as a runner.

That's not to say the Giants don't need to concern themselves with him carrying the ball. On the contrary, it needs to be their focus. If Bell gets going as a runner, it opens up play-action and a lot of other things for the very dangerous Steelers passing game. I think the Giants hold him to about 80 yards on the ground.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - It'll be close, but for whatever reason, the Steelers' rushing numbers have gone down at home this season. They're averaging 95.2 yards in five games at Heinz Field and haven't hit 100 yards there since Week 4. They have rushed for 61, 94 and 48 yards in their last three outings at home. Of course, that could mean that they're due, but if the weather holds out, we could see a quarterback duel between Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger with their star receivers.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - The Steelers are averaging just over 100 rushing yards per game (100.9), good for 18th in the NFL. The Giants have been solid in stopping the run this season. They're surrendering just 89.1 yards per game (5th in the NFL) and haven't allowed an opposing team to reach the century mark since Week 5 when they visited the Packers, who piled up 147 rushing yards.

No surprise, the Giants' impressive stretch has coincided with their six-game winning streak. Pittsburgh has faced three of the current top five rushing defenses this season (Ravens, Cowboys, Jets) and in each of those contests, the Steelers failed to reach 100 rushing yards. While Le'Veon Bell is arguably the best running back in the NFL, he's just as effective as a receiver as he is on the ground and in order to counter the Giants strong run defense, I can see Pittsburgh using Bell a lot more out of the backfield in this game.

4. The 2004 NFL Draft Class is the best since 2000.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - While the 2004 Draft Class is the best quarterback draft class since 2000, it is not the best overall class. That award goes to the 2011 draft class. Here is a sampling of players from that draft (please note in many cases they are some of the best players at their position): Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan, Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan, Muhammad Wilkerson, Andy Dalton, Nate Solder, Randall Cobb, Justin Houston, DeMarco Murray and Richard Sherman. That's epic.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - The era we're talking about is that of the quarterback, and no class has produced better ones since 2000. Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers are all in the top 10 in career passing touchdowns and soon to be in yards and completions (Manning is already there). Oh, and Manning and Roethlisberger have each won two Super Bowls, while the Giants quarterback earned Super Bowl MVP honors both times.

Aside from quarterbacks, you have Larry Fitzgerald, who is seven catches away from moving into third place on the all-time receptions list. And then you have some names you might have heard of: Vince Wilfork, Jared Allen, Sean Taylor, Jonathan Vilma, Steven Jackson, Chris Snee, Darnell Dockett, and the list goes on.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The 2004 NFL Draft class is known for its depth at quarterback, and rightfully so, but aside from that position, there's not a great deal of substance at every position. Outside of the first round, that draft has produced 14 Pro Bowlers. The 2010 class already has 20 Pro Bowlers outside of the first round. That group includes second rounders Rob Gronkowski, Carlos Dunlap, Sean Lee and Golden Tate.

The third round showcased Emmanuel Sanders, NaVorro Bowman and Jimmy Graham. It gets even better in the fourth: Everson Griffen, Alterraun Verner and Geno Atkins. Kam Chancellor and Reshad Jones were selected in the fifth round and to further emphasize how deep this draft was, Antonio Brown was a steal in the sixth. You're not going to find a deeper draft than 2010 and I have yet to name any first-rounders. The first 32 picks produced 16 Pro Bowlers, highlighted by four offensive linemen (Trent Williams, Russell Okung, Mike Iupati, Maurkice Pouncey), three defensive linemen (Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul), four defensive backs (Eric Berry, Joe Haden, Earl Thomas, Devin McCourty), two wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant, and running backs C.J. Spiller and Ryan Mathews.

These five players could make a key impact in Sunday's matchup vs. the Steelers

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